Don’t tweet or text when walking your pet
By Sue Owens Wright
No doubt you are already familiar with the dangers posed by those who text and tweet while driving a car. But there’s another hazard to watch out for on Sacramento streets: the distracted dog walker. While an owner’s attention is focused on his handheld device, he’s probably unaware of potential dangers to his pet. If the dog is following along at the end of an extendable leash, it could mean the end of the dog when struck by a moving vehicle.
The sidewalk or crosswalk is no place to be a distracted pet owner. Crosswalks are not the magical safety zones many people seem to imagine they are. Pedestrians must pay attention to what’s around them at all times, but they typically don’t. From a coffee shop window one day, I watched someone crossing a busy thoroughfare with his little dog trailing behind him on the leash. Eyes on his iPhone, the man obviously was focused not on whether he and his dog safely navigated the intersection on J Street but on whatever it is people do on those doggone things 24/7. Sure enough, a car zipped around the corner, narrowly missing the dog.
I’ve been nearly struck once or twice myself on that particular corner by an inattentive driver or one who didn’t seem to know or care that pedestrians have the right of way. If I’d had my slowpoke basset hounds with me at the time, I’d have had to be extra cautious to ensure we made it safely to the other side of the street. As far as I’m concerned, you can keep your iPhone with its up-to-the-nanosecond tweets and texts. There’s no electronic message you could send me that’s as important to me as my BFF (best fur friend).
There are also distracted dog walkers at dog parks. Too often, the owners are engaged with their iPhones, blissfully unaware of where their dogs are or what they’re doing. My dog was attacked by a pair of dogs whose owner was too busy yapping on his phone to notice. I’ve seen so-called professional dog walkers enter the dog park with a pack of dogs and set them loose to run amok while the “walker” spends the whole time fiddling with a handheld gadget. I see distracted parents do the same thing with their children in community parks. As I watch the poor kids try in vain to attract Mom’s or Dad’s attention when they are preoccupied with their phones, I wonder if those parents realize that they are missing moments with their children that never come again. The same is true of people and their pets.
Technology has the power to rob us of real life if we let it. The hours I spend writing books and articles about pets on a laptop computer is precious time missed with my own pets. That’s why I don’t own an iPhone or any other gadgets to steal away any more of our time together. Pets aren’t with us for as long as we’d like. Before we know it, bright eyes have grown cloudy and glossy young muzzles are grizzled with age. Enough diversions exist to keep us from enjoying what little time we are allotted with them. I refuse to add another. If you happen to see me crossing a street with my dogs, you’ll never catch me talking on a cell or staring at an iPhone in a techno-trance. I’ll be too busy watching my pets, and watching out for their safety.